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St. Croix Health Center Nursing Home Activity Director Cindy Prokash (left) and Wisconsin Secretary of Health Services Kitty Rhoades (right) laugh along with nursing home resident Grace Bentley while she listens to her iPod during a visit Rhoades made to the New Richmond nursing home on Friday, Feb. 28. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

Kitty Rhoades visits New Richmond nursing home

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Wisconsin Secretary of Health Services Kitty Rhoades was impressed by the progress Activities Director Cindy Prokash and her staff at St. Croix Health Center Nursing Home had made with the Music and Memory Initiative when Rhoades made a stop at the facility on Friday, Feb. 28.

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“I never expected to see these results so quickly considering we are only two months into the program,” Rhoades said. “We’ve only been at this since January and the response we have been getting from the nursing homes that are taking part in it has been incredible. I had no idea when I signed off on this program how big of a difference it would make or how significant an impact it would have on the residents.”

Rhoades toured the New Richmond facility with Prokash and a few other staff members before sitting down with the staff to discuss their findings.

According to Prokash, the St. Croix Health Center Nursing Home has seen significant changes in many of its residents after they started to implement the Music and Memory program. The staff keeps detailed notes of interactions with the residents and how they are behaving before, during and after listening to their music.

“We are the first state to take this on as an official project and we are paving the way on how to minimize the crisis and challenging behavior in dementia patients,” Rhoades said. “The state is trying to lower the use of psychotropic medication and this program seems like an easier, more effective way to manage their behavior than medication.”

Rhoades said that she is looking to expand the program as much as possible, from nursing homes to assisted living to all those who would like to be a part of it. Of the 426 nursing homes in the state, Rhoades said that 326 applied to be one of the 100 pilot nursing homes to take part in the Music and Memory Initiative.

“It will take a while for things to get that far, but we have some really strong support so far,” Rhoades said. “We need the updates the nursing homes are giving us for our research into the programs effectiveness but the expansion of it doesn’t have to wait for us.”

Even though Prokash is heading up much of the Music and Memory program, she said that her staff has been invaluable to the success so far.

“The staff has helped me a lot with this program; I’m not the only one who is to credit for its successes so far,” Prokash said.

Another subject Rhoades touched on during her visit was the need to get as many people trained in how to interact with dementia patients as possible.

“We need as many boots on the ground as we can get when it comes to training,” Rhoades said. “We will have a new program set up and ready to go by July 2014 that will hopefully make things easier and give more people the chance to be trained. We hope to also reach out to employers and HR departments as well as universities to help them understand how important this subject is to talk about and discuss.”

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Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Obeserver for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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